Pursuant to authority conferred by Supreme Court Rule 54(5)(c), the following Administrative Order is issued:

Effective June 1, 2004, all newly filed cases in the eleven superior courts which serve the State of New Hampshire shall be individually assigned to a superior court justice or, as appropriate, a marital master who regularly sits at the court location where the case is filed and, except as provided herein, shall remain with that justice or master until the case is finally concluded.

Unless otherwise ordered by the justice or master to whom the case first filed is assigned, related cases filed in the same court shall be assigned to a single justice or master. For purposes of this order only and regardless of whether they may be jointly tried, criminal cases are "related" if they involve (1) charges against the same defendant which are of the same or similar character or are based on the same act or transaction or two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or plan, or (2) charges against two or more defendants who are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses. Civil, equity and marital cases are "related" if they involve the same parties or arise out of the same act or transaction or an inter-related series of acts or transactions.

Each clerk of the superior court shall establish separate seriatim assignment dockets for criminal, civil, equity and domestic cases. As new cases are filed in each category, they shall be assigned on a rotating basis to the justice or master next in order on the rotation schedule. Because the jurisdiction of marital masters is limited, the assignment dockets shall be so formulated as to insure an equitable distribution of the total caseload among the justices and masters assigned to the court. Similarly, where a justice or master is assigned to a court location on less than a full-time basis, the assignment dockets shall insure an equitable distribution of the caseload among the court’s full time and part time justices and masters. In order to guard against the possibility of someone attempting to "time" the filing of a case so as to secure its assignment to a particular justice or master, the assignment dockets shall be kept confidential and no employee or agent of the court shall disclose to any litigant or attorney the identity of the justice or master next in line to receive a case in any category.

This order does not confer upon any litigant or lawyer a right to have any case heard by a particular justice or master, including the justice or master to whom the case was initially assigned; and nothing in this order precludes the reassignment of a case from one justice or master to another, with or without advance notice to the litigants or their counsel, where such reassignment is required by law, is necessary because of the recusal of the initially assigned justice or master, or furthers the interests of justice or the convenience of the parties or the court. Except where ordered by a court or justice of higher authority or where the assigned justice or master is unavailable, no reassignment shall be made without the consent of the justice or master to whom the case is assigned. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is expected that reassignments shall be held to a minimum.

Cases pending as of June 1, 2004, need not be immediately assigned to a particular justice or master. Instead, such cases shall be individually assigned, as necessary, on an equitable basis as they are reached for hearings and/or trial.




March 22, 2004                      __________________________

                                                        ROBERT J. LYNN
                                                        Chief Justice